New Prime Minister will not get much time to write Swiss letter
ISLAMABAD: The process kicked off by the Supreme Court to get the new Prime Minister, Raja Pervaiz Ashraf, to write a letter to the Swiss authorities to implement the NRO judgment will be short-lived, brief and on a fast-track compared to the time consumed earlier.
Previously, the Justice Nasirul Mulk-led seven-member bench took three months and ten days to finally convict the then Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani on April 26 for contempt of court for not sending the letter to the Swiss authorities.
The present bench, or a subsequently constituted larger panel of judges, is unlikely to take that long to conclude the case leading to the imposition ofpenalty on Pervaiz Ashraf like his predecessor if he persisted with his stand to follow Gilani’s policy of refusing to write these letters.
Justice Nasirul Mulk bench launched proceedings on January 16 and culminated them on April 26 following the requirements of fair trial and due process of law as prescribed by the Constitution.
This time, there will be no depositions of witnesses, production of official record, or long-drawn arguments of lawyers and counter-arguments etc because all these processes were completed before the 7-judge panel.
Most importantly, on March 9 this bench directed Gilani to “implement the NRO ruling without seeking any further advice and submit his written statement before the court ten days later.” It ordered to implement para 178 of the judgment without seeking any advice from the concerned secretaries. “Regardless of the advice of the secretaries, the prime minister must decide the matter.”
This direction was issued when Gilani repeatedly took refuge behind the argument that he agreed with the advice given to him by his legal team that there was no need to send the letters.
Keeping in view the fact that all the stages of fair trial were earlier consummated, the three-member bench headed by Justice Nasirul Mulk bench Wednesday straightaway directed the new prime minister to submit a written response whether or not he will write letters, and ordered Attorney General Irfan Qadir to get in touch with him and inform the court about his stance. “The prime minister is not an ordinary person and it doesn’t suit him to say that he doesn’t know about the case, would ponder over it and submit a reply.”
Gilani twice appeared before the 7-judge panel, and reiterated that he would not write the requisite letters because the Constitution, in his view, did not permit so. In the present proceedings, the bench is likely to summon the prime minister to personally hear his stand and views on its direction.
On January 16, Justice Nasirul Mulk chaired bench issued the show cause notice for contempt. Gilani hired Barrister Aitzaz Ahsan for Rs100 as lawyer to get him off the contempt charge hook. The show cause notice was challenged before the larger bench, and the nine-member panel headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry rejected the appeal and held that its issuance was correct and proceedings should go ahead on it.
Gilani’s Principal Secretary Nargis Sethi appeared before the bench as witness while former law ministry Babar Awan and Law Secretary Masood Chishti refused to testify and as a result lost everything official, shortly afterwards.
In its January 10 ruling, a five-member bench headed by Justice Asif Saeed Khosa spelt out six options to deal with the non-implementation of the NRO judgment by the prime minister, with the alternative two saying that proceedings may be initiated against Gilani, and the law minister and secretary for committing contempt of court by persistently, obstinately and contumaciously resisting, failing or refusing to implement or execute in full the directions issued by the apex court in the NRO decision. It may not be lost sight of that, apart from the other consequences, by virtue of Article 63(1)(g)(h) read with Article 113 of the Constitution a possible conviction on such a charge may entail a disqualification from being elected or chosen as, and from being, an MP for at least a period of five years, the option said.
Some legal experts including Asma Jahangir have suggested more than once that the apex court should exercise option number three given by Justice Khosa led bench, which says that in exercise of its powers under Article 187 read with Rules 1 and 2 of Order XXXII of the Supreme Court Rules, 1980 and all other enabling provisions the Supreme Court may appoint a Commission to execute the relevant parts of the judgment passed and directions issued in the NRO ruling.Ms Jahangir said the other day that the court should ask its registrar to write the requisite letters to Swiss authorities.